Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday ~ 'Family Stuff'

Just yesterday I tweeted the following:

"Why is it the collaterals with no descendants that capture my attention the most? It's like my heart adopts them automatically."


"Their faces tug on my heartstrings just begging me to tell their stories."

What inspired those? I had been sitting at my father-in-law’s table poring through more old photos and more of Pearl’s composition books.  I had originally gone over there to photograph an old family toy for an article that I’m writing for Shades of the Departed, when my father-in-law said, “Here’s some more family stuff.”

[Gawd. How I love that “family stuff.”]

Pearl (Williams) Pointer
That “family stuff” got me to thinking in several directions.  As I flipped through Pearl’s school composition books, where she’d dutifully practiced her handwriting and no doubt answered her math and geography homework questions, I wondered if any of my descendants would be as awed by my school homework? [That is, if I can keep my non-packrat husband from throwing it away. ;)]  Would they pore over every letter hoping that some curved line would reveal just an inkling of what I was thinking, feeling? Would they pull out their magnifying glass to analyze my boredom-induced doodles in the margins hoping to see if they revealed what my hopes, dreams, and regrets had been? [Yes, Pearl doodled. Lots.]

Then I flipped through the scrapbook album. Some of the photos I’d already seen thanks to Great-Uncle Donald and his awesome digitizing, but there were many that I’d not seen. This had been my husband’s grandfather’s album [Great-Uncle Donald’s younger brother], and it’s interesting to see what photos Grandpa Pointer included in his album and how he grouped them as compared to how Great-Uncle Donald had done. Perhaps I’m analyzing it too much [So sue me.], but it reminded of what Great-Uncle Donald had told me last summer about the dynamics of the relationships between brothers.  And yesterday I thought to myself how lucky I was to have so much of the family artifacts to look at.  It’s like hearing a different viewpoint of the family story, which is important, because, in my opinion, somewhere in there lies the truth.

Back: Harold, Lester, Wayne, Glen. Front: Forrest & Donald
Flipping towards the back of the album, I found Great-Uncle Lester’s high school diploma. And it brought tears to my eyes. [I’m such a girl. I know.] You see, Great-Uncle Lester [U.S. Navy] died during World War II of a brain tumor. He had been married, but had no children. And that’s what broke my heart. No descendants to wonder and mull over the “stuff” he’d left behind. No one to wonder if they had the same eye or hair color as Lester. No one to wonder what his hopes and dreams had been. No one to wonder what his handwriting reveals about himself in his letters home to mom [Pearl].

However, if all of the copies of the newspaper articles of his illness and death, and if all the letters and postcards of his that were saved over the years are anything to go by, he had made a big impact on his family.

But Lester wasn’t the only Pointer to be sacrificed in World War II. His brother Staff Sergeant Wayne H. Pointer (Air Corps) had been listed as missing in 1943 after his plane went down over Brazil, and he was later declared dead. He had not been married nor did he have any children. However, his letters home to mom were carefully saved and his photos were neatly stored by at least 2 of his brothers. Great-Uncle Donald even has specific stories about Great-Uncle Wayne in his memoirs.

It still saddens me whenever I find “collaterals” [siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.] that have no descendants to tell their hopes, their dreams, their regrets, their stories. And with each one that I uncover, I feel compelled to adopt them. To find and tell their story so they won’t be forgotten.

 As I look into their fading faces and as I read their fading handwriting, I just want to say, “Don’t worry. You won’t be forgotten. Someone will know your story.”

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Lester Laverne Pointer. b. 26 Nov 1915; d. 14 Oct 1942;
buried at Arlington National Cemetery
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  1. I love it. You really capture the feeling of sadness looking at a faded photograph. I to know the feeling of being drawn to those in families that had not children. Thanks good post look forward to your article.

  2. I've always felt that way too. Just because they didn't reproduce, doesn't mean they are not important (or interesting!).

  3. This post really hit home with me, too - those "reverse orphans" are some of my obsessions in research.

  4. Yes! Somehow I, too, have the need to find my ancestors without descendants and their stories so they're not lost or their stories left behind. Great post.

  5. Thanks y'all. I think "Reverse Orphans" would make a great title for a book about the stories about those folks who have no descendants. Maybe I can find the time to write it. Sleep is *so* overrated. *snort*

    FYI, their stories really do bring tears to my eyes.


  6. You are so right... the childless, and the orphans. They are the ones that keep me digging. I loved this story and can't wait to read what toy tale you put together.

  7. Great post! I know exactly how you feel. I sometimes go far off on tangents writing about collateral lines, I end up climbing (technically) someone else's family tree. I feel I just have to tell their story. Maybe it's because I will likely, eventually be one of those "reverse orphans" with no descendants. Someone *better* want to know more about me! :-)

  8. I completely agree. I am fascinated by the many "maiden" aunts, cousin nuns, uncle priests, and other relatives that grew up with, and sometimes raised our ancestors. They are so present in the family records, the pictures, letters and graveyards. I cherish them.


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